Original version: Galaga, released in 1981 for arcade


Welcome to my new category “HONORABLE MENTION,” which is reserved for games that just barely fall short of being timeless classics. Perhaps a game has a technical or gameplay flaw that holds it back, or perhaps a game’s core gameplay is completely eclipsed by a later game. Nevertheless, a game with the title of “HONORABLE MENTION” is still good and is deserving of an article; and if you were to play it you would probably have a great time. In the interest of fairness, only one game per year can receive this title.

In cinema it is held that sequels are not as good as the original. A few notable exceptions, such as “The Godfather, Part II” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” prove that that doesn’t always have to be the case. With video games, sequels are almost always better than their predecessors. Sometimes, certain exceptions apply but the trend is that developers will refine gameplay, improve graphics, add features, and just generally add a layer of spit and polish. Galaga is a great example of this.

Namco’s first game was Gee Bee, a little-known Breakout clone that included pinball bumpers in between the paddle and the bricks (fun fact: Gee Bee‘s creator, Iwatani Toru, later developed Pac-Man). Their second game was a Space Invaders clone called Galaxian, notable for being the first game to feature multicolored sprites and explosions, as well as multicolored on-screen text.


What I was trying to do with that ship-capturing was to double my firepower so I could hit twice as many targets. That tactic really pays off when you know what you’re doing. Like so:



For me, however, it usually means losing two lives at once. So anyway, Galaga fit right in, given that most games in 1981 were about space and, dare I say, invaders. What helped Galaga to stand out, though, were its bright colors. You hear that, Cliff Bleszinski? You procurer of browns and greys? This is how it’s done!
Galaga was updated in 1984 and again in 1988 with improved graphics and sound, and new features. You can, for example, capture multiple enemies to fight by your side. It feels really empowering.
I think it’s really interesting to see how a game type can evolve (especially this quickly). From the blueprint of Space Invaders we had Galaxian, Phoenix, and now Galaga. I think this is also why it’s important to go in order. If you play Galaga first, Space Invaders will seem like an inferior knock-off. So if you’re reading this way in the future when I’m reviewing games in the ’90s, go back to the beginning and read forward. Darn websites always put the new stuff first. You can’t start at the beginning unless you click through the pages. *grumble grumble*
<< Kaboom!                        Runners-up of 1981 >>

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